Features and Analysis

South Korea selfie stick clampdown: Will regulators hamper the development of the connected world?

A few weeks ago I rented a cottage with seven of my friends to celebrate ten years since we all met at university. One of my friends brought along the inevitable “selfie stick”, which meant that we could take lots of group photos without one of us being missing from the picture. We were all laughing about how quickly technology has come a long way in ten years – when we were at university there was no such thing as a “selfie stick”. The selfie stick has now inevitably become the norm and nobody blinks an eye when somebody brings one out. Celebrities such as Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian have no doubt added to the craze with their never-ending selfies.

Fines up to $27,000

I was therefore surprised this week when I learnt that South Korea’s radio management agency issued guidelines outlawing the sale of unregistered selfie sticks. The law applies to Bluetooth-enabled selfie sticks that allow the user to remotely trigger a phone to take a picture. Anybody caught selling unregistered ones could be fined up to $27,000. An official at the Central Radio Management Office told the AFP Newswire that because they use Bluetooth, the devices are considered to be a “telecommunication device” and that they must be tested and registered. The agency said that unregistered sticks might interfere with other devices using the same radio frequencies.

So far, the rules are not being rigorously enforced but they do send out a clear message about regulation in South Korea regarding connected devices.

25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015

This really got me thinking about the role of regulators in the connected world. Cisco IBSG predicts that there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. Are regulators therefore really set up to deal with the connected device explosion? Regulators are known for being notoriously cumbersome and slow (and that was when they only had mobile phones to deal with) and with connected devices ranging from fridges and selfie sticks, to drones and cars, connected “things” will really stretch the regulatory framework. Will regulation hamper the development of a connected world?

Craig Bachmann, Senior Director of the Open Digital Program TM Forum, made a very valid point when he said that,

 “The Internet of Things is not a technical problem, it is a business, regulatory and social challenge to integrate better ways of life with new business models… if the regulatory landscape is unclear, businesses will not invest as fast as they might”.

Investment, as always, is key to the success of IoT, and we need companies to keep innovating in this area as it will have a profound impact on the way we live, from better healthcare and agricultural yields to smarter cities and cars. Morgan Stanley predicts that driverless cars alone will generate $5.6 trillion in annual savings worldwide through a decrease in crashes, loss of life and improved mobility for the elderly, blind and disabled, as well as decrease in fuel usage and insurance premiums.

The potential of the connected world is mind-blowing and regulators need to facilitate its development. But how? At the moment I am not sure but what is clear is that regulators need to evolve the way they regulate and work with all those involved in the connected ecosystem. Does self-regulation hold the key?

What do you think?


    About The Author

    Vice President, Content, Research and Media - TM Forum

    Aaron Boasman-Patel is responsible for content across TM Forum’s research portfolio, the digital content platform, Inform, as well as leading content and research across the events and Digital Leadership Summits portfolio, including TM Forum Live! This is fed back to the Collaboration team to help drive the Forum’s strategic direction and collaborative program. He has chaired many international conferences and delivered presentations on smart cities, customer centricity, Internet of Everything, industry developments, market trends and strategy. Aaron has worked in the telecoms and associated industries for over ten years. He graduated with an M.A. (Oxon) from the University of Oxford. Aaron specializes in digital transformation, customer centricity, analytics and AI, and digital platforms and ecosystems.

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